Thursday, May 24, 2018

Review: Heart of Iron

Title: Heart of Iron
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Space Opera
Release Date: February 27, 2018

Ana was raised by outlaws, who found her as a child, adrift in space with a sentient android (or Metal), D09. D09 is an illegal android, still in possession of freewill, and, when he begins to malfunction, Ana will stop at nothing to help him. When the coordinates to the lost ship that is her last hope are snatched from under her nosed by Rob, a privileged Ironblood boy, she chases after him. After infiltrating an Ironblood party, everything goes wrong and they wind up fugitives on the run, both desperate to reach the coordinates for their own reasons. As they uncover secrets about the Metals, Ana's heritage, and a threat to the Empire itself; Ana finds herself torn between saving D09 and protecting a kingdom whose rulers want her dead. 

Out of Ten: 6/10

Review at a Glance: An entertaining if not entirely engaging space opera retelling of Anastasia.

Review: I never watched Anastasia as a child. I didn't watch really many children's movies as a child as a result of a long story involving Frosty the Snowman. I learned the history of the Romanovs and the Russian revolution well before seeing Anastasia, the widely acclaimed animated feature film. (I was a somewhat unusual child.) I only got around to seeing it a few years ago so I don't have the same sort of nostalgia attached to it that a lot of people probably went into this Space Opera Anastasia retelling with. So it is possible that I just wasn't the target audience.

This was my kick-off read for the Bout of Books read-a-thon and I... didn't hate it? The thing was that I wasn't really that impressed by it either. I realise that this is a space opera so there's a certain amount of leeway. It's more fantasy than science fiction. But the fact remains that it didn't really set up the parameters of the world. I guess it's just a magical thing that only royalty can hold the crown without it rusting? (With the exception of androids who, as one of the main characters points out, literally within the first 100 pages, which is one heck a legal loophole, and also seemed one heck of a Chekov's gun set-up, so I just kept expecting the android gambit throughout the book. Just. Kept waiting for it). The biggest difficulty for me was that the world wasn't really built up, on either a level of history or scale.

It was alright once I got used to it and let go of any expectations I'd gone in with. I didn't love the characters but they were at least consistent within their motivations. They overall just felt very simple? I think things that were supposed to come off as tragic didn't really because I just wasn't that engaged, and I felt like their relationships formed... strangely and for some of them quite fast as well. Rob just... wasn't a very interesting character and also for some reason his name bothered me (I think it was just the spelling), and Ana wasn't much better. It just didn't feel like there was much to them. I didn't dislike them but I didn't get... super attached either. I liked Ana's pirate moms though, they were cool and I hope we get to learn more about them.

 The story itself was pretty simple, the classic "girl is secretly PRINCESS," story, and, while there were other plot twists I didn't find them all that... surprising. I just kind of kept on going through the story going "ah yes that makes sense" I just didn't find myself having any really strong emotional response to the story.

All that said, I did still find the story interesting enough to finish and I'll probably pick up the second book when it comes out, I'm curious about what the author plans to do with some components of the story. Despite my not being super-invested in the characters, I still found following their story entertaining enough, for all it's cliches.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Bout of Books Read-a-thon 22 Wrap-Up

Okay so in a lot of ways I spectacularly failed! Things got busy I missed doing all of the challenges because I forgot they existed for the first half of the week and then business happened during the second. It did give me a push to read a little more than I was planning to do this week. Now to review this week's reads. Onward and upward! (Was that a joke based on the fact that I have only read space operas for the past week? You decide.)

Total Page Count: 1585

Books Read

Page Read: 467/467 (COMPLETE)
This one was... fine. It wasn't terrible, and I'll probably carry on with the series.

Page Read: 350/350 (COMPLETE)
Okay so I finished this two days ago and then things in life got busy and then posts didn't happen. But I finished it! There are components of this story that still confused me... Once I got my head wrapped around the concept of space as something much closer to the sea than, well, space, I was able to follow the plot and the world,but sometimes the character relationships and whatnot didn't entirely follow for me.

Page Read: 404/404 (COMPLETE)
This has been on my TBR for quite a while, and I finally got my hands on a copy and read it! I wasn't as TOTALLY PSYCHED about as I was hoping I would be, but I still really enjoyed it. It's think it's the first time I've read a book that uses xe/xyr pronouns implied as being the default for someone whose gender is unknown, so that was pretty awesome.

Page Read: 364/364 (COMPLETE)
Okay so I think reading this one I really got into the read-a-thon mood, like I just sat down and powered through it. I'm still not totally floored by these books but, but they maneuver with certain ideas that I find totally fascinating and important, and they're IN SPACE so I still enjoyed both The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit quite a lot. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bout of Books Read-a-thon 22: Day 3

Books Read So Far

Page Read: 467/467 (COMPLETE)
This one was... fine. It wasn't terrible, and I'll probably carry on with the series.

Page Read: 194/350
I know I know I didn't read very much. Blame it on a bit of reading fatigue, I guess?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bout of Books Read-a-thon 22: Day 2

Books Read So Far

Page Read: 467/467 (COMPLETE)
This one was... fine. It wasn't terrible, and I'll probably carry on with the series.

Page Read: 32/350

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bout of Books Read-a-thon 22: Day 1

Books Read So Far

Page Read: 230/467
I'm unintentionally pretty space-themed with my TBR this time around. (Not that I've published my TBR... it's subject to change.) I'm enjoying this so far though the I'm questioning some of the character development calls... I'm hoping that those won't throw me too much and I'll get more into the flow in the second half of this one. 

Top Eight Books I Didn't Necessarily Enjoy but Am Glad I Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I'm going to sort these and there's probably not going to be ten... because I tend not to read that many books that I out-and-out hate. It's also going to be a little more wordy that I usually make my Top Ten Tuesdays because... I feel like I need to provide SOME explanation as to why.

The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

I had a roommate once who ate bran muffins for breakfast every morning, despite the fact that she hated bran muffins, because she felt that that was what adults ate for breakfast ("interesting," I said, as I broke my fast with leftover pizza or goldfish crackers). But I get it now, because I kind of think Throne of Glass might be my very own bran muffins. I'm invested in maybe 4 characters and none of them get much in terms of screen time but I keep reading these books despite not really enjoying most of my reading experience. 

I found the first book... mediocre, I guess. It was fine but it was nothing to write home about. As I continued on with the series, mostly because it was one of those hyped series that made me wonder what I was missing and, surely, this book, I would see what everyone loved about this series. Instead I just found that it was more and more defined by tropes that I really didn't like. It's a fantasy story that doesn't do any of the things I like my fantasy stories to do with some stuff that just makes me cringe. 

I remember how angry reading this one made me, and I think it was mostly that I was, at this point, becoming aware of how often consent- not just the nuances thereof but just, basic consent was ignored in some YA books. I wound up writing a blog post about it because it made me (and still makes me) incredibly uncomfortable, when reading a book where a primary target audience is young women, to have a female character say "no" and to have that be ignored- and for the ignoring of  her refusal of intimacy somehow be portrayed as romantic. I don't even think this book was the worst offender, I've definitely read worse since (and thank goodness, so much better) but this was one of the first times, I think that it really hit me that. Wow. This was a trope I hated.

The Glittering Court (The Glittering Court, #1)
The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Mostly this one just allowed me to put the final nail the the Richelle Mead coffin. I've read multiple books from her now and I can confidently say that her work just isn't for me. The way she crafts characters just doesn't work for me. I like angst and dramatic self-pity as much as the next person but this pushes it, even for me. 

I PROMISE I'll be done with the S. J. Maas commentary after this. For this post at least. (If only because there aren't any other series out by her). One day I might make a longer post discussing my kind of difficult relationship with her books but... not this one.

*breathes in* *breathes out* Reading this book (and also the sequel and also kind of browsed book 3 before finally just giving up). Part of it is that romance-heavy books aren't really my thing. I mostly found myself going "wait was that supposed to be sexy? That was just... uncomfortable and borderline creepy" and it turns out that's just off-putting.

Outside of that I felt that this series didn't do a great job of carrying it's story or building it's world without resorting to dumping information on the reader.

After reading this and Throne of Glass I feel like I'm pretty attuned to a few tropes that I don't like. I find mating-bond stuff cringe-y at best, and that features heavily, so now I know I'll be steering clear of media that falls back on that particular trope...

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Okay so to say I've "read" this is kind of an exaggeration... I'll admit I've yet to finish it.  I sit upon a throne of lies, etc. etc. 

I did get most of the way though the audiobook before deciding I'd rather read the book and then just... didn't pick up the book. I don't read a lot of classics for the simple reason of: I've found I don't enjoy a lot of classics. 

I'm glad I picked this one up mostly because now I get to make a million jokes at Mr. Rochester's expense regarding things like "never being fully convinced your new governance isn't a fairy" and "not liking a child because she's not a great conversationalist" oh and also "lying to your new governance/girlfriend about the wife whom you keep locked in the attic except for those times when she gets out and sets fires" honestly it's a pretty wild story and I like to make jokes. Rochester, you're lucky Jane is into people think she's a possibly-malevolent magical creature, insult her, lie to her, and now have no house because the aforementioned attic wife finally managed to burn it down. Romance.  

This one's stretching the prompt almost to breaking. I think this is a really excellent book but it is also one of the saddest books I've ever read. Reading it was both a meaningful experience and once that I don't think I'll ever repeat. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is nuanced and thought-provoking and has definitely stuck with me (more even than I was expecting when I wrote the review) but it was also somewhat staggering in how melancholy aspects of it were. I'm glad I read it, essentially, but I wouldn't do it again (and I say that as a chronic re-reader). I think I'm a bit clearer on why in my review, which you can find here, if you want clarification.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Okay so I'm actually still not really glad I read this, except that when someone says "wow you sure do have a lot of anger about high school English, what did it ever do to you?" I can just point to this book. 

I'm still not really sure if this was a good or a bad book overall (I personally didn't find the characters, story, or prose that compelling) but it's more that... look. It was just a book with subject matter that I think I would find difficult to handle now, reading more only my own mental enrichment, much less with my grade on the line as a 16 year-old. So yeah. Still not totally over that.

So I guess what I'm saying is that being made to read this book really drove home an idea? Something about what kind of literature many people teaching English think teens should read and the wide, wide chasm between that and what I personally enjoy and/or find meaningful in a story.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

I'm glad I read this one and I think I might like to give it another try with the perspective I have now, but I didn't particularly enjoy it when I read it in high school. Mostly, I think, because I wasn't familiar with the cultural context in which it was written (which I'm more aware of now), which is fairly essential to grasping the nuances of this story (or being able to make sense of most of it in any form at all). To high-school me it seemed like vaguely symbolic surrealist confusion but my understanding of the history of Latin America as a place and magical realism as a genre has improved quite a bit since then and I think I'd be able to get more out of the reading experience.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Bout of Books Read-a-thon 22 Sign-Up Post

Diving back into the book-blogging fray headfirst, it's time for a read-a-thon!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 14th and runs through Sunday, May 20th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 22 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

So that's what's happening. Come. Join. Read things (you know you're going to anyway...).